Using Civil War Photographs as Primary Sources
Teaching research skills and using primary sources are an essential part of Social Studies instruction. Primary Sources can come in many different forms. When teaching the Civil War, we often use letters, diaries and other government documents as our primary sources. Along with those types of primary sources, photographs and drawings can be used in the classroom as well. Civil War era photographs can be easily accessed using many web sites today.
Our summer blog series is going to focus on examples of Civil War photographs that can be used as classroom discussion pieces or research tools.
Why use photographs in the classroom?
Photo analysis allows students to work with primary sources in a non-traditional way. This hands-on approach gives students the opportunity to establish, modify and validate their own perceptions and understanding of history. It also allows for students with varying reading abilities to analyze primary sources that may have to have been modified from the original text format.
Photo analysis enables students to develop their sense of observation, encourages them to formulate questions and make interpretations, all higher levels of learning on Bloom’s Taxonomy. Various factors influence how a photo or drawing is viewed and understood, including the reason why it was taken or drawn, the context in which it is presented, the information accompanying it and even the way it is physically framed.
Tie in to NCSS standards
The National Council of Social Studies provides standards for classroom use and these relate to our use of Civil War photographs.
Standard 2: Time, Continuity, and Change (Middle Grades)
Learners will understand:
● concepts such as: chronology, causality, change, conflict, complexity, multiple perspectives, primary and secondary sources, and cause and effect
● that learning about the past requires the interpretation of sources, and that using varied sources provides the potential for a more balanced interpretive record of the past;
● that historical interpretations of the same event may differ on the basis of such factors as conflicting evidence from varied sources, national or cultural perspectives, and the point of view of the researcher;
What you’ll find in this series…
Each blog post in this series will contain
- basic lesson plan outline
- a Civil War photograph
- a power point of slides with the photograph
- one slide will have the image
- one slide will have the image with several areas of the image circled which could be researched possibly for primary and middle level students
- a slide with links within the picture to other slides in the power point with related information
Civil War Photograph Lesson Plan
Civil War Unit Theme: War is difficult for everyone.
Goal : To be able to use a primary source to understand elements of the Civil War and how the
war was difficult.
Lesson Objectives: Students will be able to explain 3 key elements displayed in the photograph related to our theme that “ War is difficult for everyone”.
1. Upon viewing a Civil War photograph / painting / drawing , students will be able to support
and/or refute hypotheses based on the elements within the photograph
2. Upon viewing the photograph / painting / drawing , students will demonstrate the ability to
use primary sources as a research tool.
Images can be downloaded or viewed from these sites
Library of Congress
Civil War Photos.net
Civil War wiki page of links for research -created byHershey Middle School Media Specialist
Anticipatory Set /Hook
Set the scene by having the students imagine they are an alien visiting earth for the first time. Have them view a picture of sporting event – football game, soccer, swimming etc – in that frame of mind – an alien who knows nothing about Earth and our customs. Give students 5 minutes to make a list of hypotheses (educated guesses or “hunches”) that could be made by an alien. Give time to share “hunches” and share some of your own.
1. Explain that the students are going to look at pictures from the Civil War that may be like looking at the at the sports pictures like aliens.
2. Give students the “Hunch” note sheet to take notes on.
3. Be sure to use the appropriate sheet for your student’s grade level.
4. Designate an amount of time for students to work alone, in pairs, to make “hunches” about
elements of the picture. Explain that a hunch is similar to a hypothesis (an educated guess)
- Depending on your students, you may want to create an example of a “hunch”.
One idea would be to have students work alone, then compare with other students
- For lower level students, you may wish to use the image with certain areas circled to
give students a focus area, high school students may not need it.
5. After students have had a chance to complete the Hunches chart, give time to share and
allow students to jot down ideas from other students.
6. Take a poll using a web site such as Poll everywhere and allow students to speculate which
“hunches” may be accurate. Great way to allow kids to use cell phones in class, but be sure to have clear instructions on the use of phones in class.
7. Instruct students that they will be doing research to prove or disprove the hypotheses
created by the class with evidence gathered from research.Use this link to a Civil War
wiki page with links to all topics of the Civil War.
This can be done alone, pairs ,or groups.
Create a way for students to share their findings – presentation, article, blog post
Revisit the poll results from step 7 and see if their “hunches” were accurate or not. Students can also use the attached power point with information about medical care during the war.
This week’s post focuses on a photograph taken here at Gettysburg of an
amputation taking place at a hospital after the battle.
click on the image to go to a larger version from CivilWarPhotos.net
Comment here with thoughts, questions, suggestions of how to use images in the classroom